SHIRLEY — When Meg Francis was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, she said she “received the news calmly and fearlessly” because she was coming off an incredible summer family experience at the Grand Canyon — but her journey has not been without struggle.
The Framingham native and mom of two lovely daughters – Olivia, 24, and Sydney,17 – learned she had breast cancer in September of 2021 while in her last semester of college, after having just accepted a full-time job, and while taking care of her mother, who ended up dying from cancer six months after she was diagnosed.
“In my book, I share the story of that cross-country trip with my girls that brought me to a deep level of surrender just in time for the most challenging times of my life,” Francis said of that life changing outing and the inspirational poetry book she wrote in the midst of heartache and grief and in the aftermath of battling cancer, “Learning to Float.”
Francis is hosting a book signing and storytelling fundraiser at the Bull Run in Shirley on Sept. 17. The event will feature live music by local musicians Mike Kelly, Risa Lavelle, and Jim Weeks, a buffet dinner, cash bar, goodie bags, and her book and other merchandise for sale with all proceeds going directly to Cancer Support Community (CSC).
The author, who is now in remission, was introduced to CSC after having a lumpectomy followed by 12 weeks of chemotherapy and four weeks of radiation treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
“They offer free support groups, of which I joined two,” Francis said of CSC, which helps connect cancer patients with a variety of resources. “I needed those groups because one thing I realized quickly was that cancer changed the way I think about life. And not just life, but aches and pains. After cancer, every time I have physical pain, I wonder ‘could this be cancer? I don’t know if you can truly understand that unless you have had cancer. It’s nice to have a community that gets it.”
She grew up in Framingham, where she lives and works, and attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“I didn’t graduate in a timely fashion, but I graduated in 2021 when my oldest daughter graduated from college and my youngest daughter was 16 years old,” Francis said.
She started her career as an addictions counselor by volunteering at The Recovery Connection in Marlborough in 2011. Francis owned a yoga studio up the street where she taught yoga and meditation and was drawn to helping others.
“Ever since then, I have been working in the field of addictions in one capacity or another,” she said. “I love teaching. I love to see people’s faces when they get it. Teaching is what I went to college for originally [but] I wound up graduating with a degree in Mental Health Studies. Motivational speaking is how I combine the two.”
Francis said she doesn’t remember much about her own cancer treatment “other than I had the best support team a girl could ask for.” She was in a thick haze of school and work and parenting and caring for her mother, Mary Perry.
“I had so much on my plate that all I could do was focus on what was in front of me,” she said. “If I was doing schoolwork, I was doing schoolwork. If I was with my mom, I was focused on my mom. If I was at work, I was focused on work. If I stopped to think about it all, I would have crumbled. But my support team wouldn’t let me.”
The book jacket was designed by Lunenburg artist, photographer, and illustrator Emily Joy Ashman of Tri Town Productions, who also beautifully captured Francis and her mother in a series of moving and emotional black and white images two months before Mary passed away.
After deciding to donate a portion of the proceeds of her book to CSC, Francis went with a specific percentage, 12.27%, in honor of her mother whose birthday was Dec. 27. All of the proceeds from sales of the book and merch at the Bull Run event will go to CSC and then the percentage will go back to the special number.
When asked what her overall motivational message in her book and life is, Francis recalled a note that one of her daughters wrote to her in a birthday card – “Thank you mom for always teaching me to prioritize joy.”
“I had no idea that I had been doing that, but I realized that is what got me through,” Francis said. “That is my message. Prioritize joy. And that can mean a lot of different things for people. But you need to find your joy.”
She said she is grateful to everyone who is supporting her and her efforts. One of the realizations she has come to through her own tumultuous experiences over the last two years is that each person has their own struggles to deal with — what matters most is how you face them and who you are fortunate to have in your corner.
“I used to be the type of person who would say, ‘I got this. I don’t need help,’” Francis said. “Cancer humbled me and helped me see the importance of asking for help and allowing loved ones to love me. We all need that.”
For tickets to the September fundraiser and more information visit megfrancis.com/events.